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master steward
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I was visiting a bit with a friend here in the puget sound area yesterday.  And it came up that their hours at work has been cut back - and yet the mortgage and the bills stay the same ...  I'm sure we've all been in this position once or twice.

The good news is that my friend is quite the expert at frugal living.  So the amount of money doesn't need to be a helluva lot.  And with a few acres and a bit of homesteading knowledge ... plus the bonus of having some extra hours ...  surely we can come up with some decent solutions.

My first thought is:  the nettles are on.  I would bet a person could go out and harvest a small mountain of nettles and sell them for a good price at the farmer's market.  And what didn't sell could be dried to be sold as a tea.  They fetch an excellent price!

Another thought is to offer bags of wild greens. 

I would guess that a person could put together some information, like recipes and neat info and print it out to sell with the wild foods.  $4 per bag.  I bet at a decent farmers market you could sell 40 bags.  Maybe a hundred. 




 
pollinator
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The wild greens thing has worked for others. Christopher and Dolores Nyerges talk about doing this in their book, Extreme Simplicity.

It's a very good book on urban homesteading, but much of it focuses on Los Angeles and its particular climate constraints.
 
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Location: Chapel Hill, NC
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
The wild greens thing has worked for others. Christopher and Dolores Nyerges talk about doing this in their book, Extreme Simplicity.

It's a very good book on urban homesteading, but much of it focuses on Los Angeles and its particular climate constraints.



What a magnificent topic!
I am sure I will contribute to this thread many times

Paul: Maybe frugality or frugal living should become another forum group;
its like homesteading but very different; it needs its own group.
Very popular these days since Wall Street has encouraged us to "go forth and seek frugality"
Regarding wild foods, greens and other produce:
There are food safety issues; and that should be yet another forum since that subject will certainly
arise many times in the near future because of S. 510 Food Safety Modernization Act.
jeez, I''m already offtopic but here goes anyway. permies.com is the best thing since sliced tofu, for sure...
This is an important communication from NC Republican Senator Richard Burr

about S. 510:

Update on the outcome of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510)

I contacted my state's Senators, Hagan and Burr and received replies
from them and an additional one from Senator Richard Burr, Republican
Senator from North Carolina. In this letter he says:

<first paragraph deleted>

"The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510), which was recently
approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and
Pensions, would expand our food safety system and protect consumers
while exempting small farmers and local food businesses from unnecessary
and overreaching requirements. During the debate on the bill,
I introduced an amendment to ensure that farms, small businesses,
and businesses that sell directly to consumers are represented in the
process of developing guidance in the public safety standards and that
the FDA conduct outreach and education to these folks through local
public meetings. I am pleased to report that my amendment was accepted.

I also worked with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to
include language in the bill that would utilize current state food
safety inspectors  instead of new FDA employees, which encourages
better coordination among local, state, and federal food safety
agencies, and a common sense approach to food safety as it related to
small farms."

<last paragraph deleted>

Here's a big thanks to Senator Burr. I am delighted that representatives
of the Republican Party are helping small and local farmers and
associated businessmen in this substantial way.

Lawrence London
Venaura Farm
http://venaurafarm.blogspot.com
Sustainably-Grown Produce
venaurafarm@bellsouth.net
 
steward
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It is easy to get excited about an idea, even more so when you have experience in an area.  Nettles are not a common food item and may be difficult to sell, even at a farmers market where locals enjoy nettles.

40 bags at 4 bucks?  I can see that being worth a day's picking and cleaning.  100 bags would be great.  Zero bags is entirely possible and is guaranteed if you don't give it a try.

 
                    
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For anyone wanting to make money from farming, get and read a copy of Joel Salatin's book "YOU CAN FARM: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start and $ucceed in a Farming Enterprise." 

He has a focus on animal products, especially pastured poultry (he's written another book called "Patstured Poultry Profits") but: and let's be realistic about what country and century we live in:

Seriously folks - what is in higher demand than clean, wholesomely raised, family farm produced animal products?  If you want to make money, (and if you want to live on a farm, it has to make some money) you should sell what people want to buy, not what you want people to buy.  Salatin cautions against exotic or "weird" products.  You'll have a harder time selling them, but I guess that doesn't mean it's impossible, so I suppose if marketing is your gift, go for it. 
 
Ken Peavey
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+1

Up north they eat brown eggs.
Down south they eat white eggs.
An egg laying flock of auracaunas and cuckoo marans just doesn't cut it.

People are generally reserved with their eating habits.  They know what they like, they are used to it, they are comfortable with it.  Getting someone to step outside their comfort zone and try something new is a tough sell.  I saw Bison steak at the supermarket yesterday, 4 ounce cuts and not too many, maybe 6 steaks.  The meat department was trying something new, but hesitant to take a pounding on unsold product.  This was at a Wal-Mart where everyone on the county shops.

Take a look at mushrooms as another example.  With a wide array of tastes, textures and appearance, there are seldom more than a few types available in a large produce section at a supermarket.  Portabello and shitake have made great strides over the past decade.  The market is warming to them, but they are only a tiny fraction of the mushroom market.

Lettuce and salad greens offer considerably more flexibility.  Red leafy, frilly green leaves, speckles and mesclun mixes are popular as well as delicious. Still, most people who buy lettuce grab a head of iceberg or some romaine. 

For meats, beef, chicken and pork own the market.  Turkey is common but is more seasonal.

For milk and dairy, consider the cow.

Produce sales are the old standbys white potato, red tomato, yellow corn, green pepper, onion, iceberg lettuce, green beans and carrots. 

Berries-strawberry, red raspberry, blackberry, blueberry

Tree fruit-macintoch apple, barlett pear, georgia peach

Use the standard products as the foundation of a farm marketing strategy.  Get your bills paid.  From there you can explore specialty products like golden tomato sauce, goats milk cheese, and Kentucky Fried Guinea.

 
                          
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kpeavey

i think this is very good and sound advise
 
                    
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kpeavy -  I've know of people doing veeerry well with organic goat's milk cheese as a main enterprise.  But they live near San Francisco, and obviously in that generally affluent there is a market of people willing to buy their product. 
 
Ken Peavey
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marinajade wrote:
I've know of people doing veeerry well with organic goat's milk cheese as a main enterprise.



Outstanding!

Can you tell us more about their story?  Did they start off with goat milk cheese?  How they got to where they are from where they started?  Do they have other projects in addition to the goat's milk cheese?  Most importantly, are they having fun with it?
 
                    
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I don't know them personally, this was a through the grapevine thing, but googling "bay area goat cheese" got me this website:

http://www.harleyfarms.com/

They seem to be doing very well, I am fairly sure this is the farmstead success story I was told about, but I don't know anything other than that website. 

Edit -  Geeze upon further reflection I guess my other post was based entirely on hearsay.....maybe I'm lucky I wasn't full of it and there exists a website to back me up?  Try to avoid that in the future.  They also seem to have lots of farm dinners....so it's kind of a restaurant thing too. 
 
pollinator
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Goat milk and products is actually not too far off the wall, as a lot of people use goat milk for medical reasons (can't drink cow milk).  Even in our area, a fairly isolated rural community, there are enough people needing goat milk to support several producers (most are not selling goat milk as their only source of income, but at least one woman is, and possibly another fellow I know of).  Goat cheese (the soft chevre) is a fairly popular item, too, and not too far out of the mainstream.  I've gotten several people turned on to it just by taking it to church potlucks and such. 

But generally, the advice to grow what people are willing to buy is very sound.  You can gradually introduce new things by offering free samples, taking a dish to a potluck, handing out recipe sheets, and so on.

Kathleen
 
                    
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I just don't think that most people are going to change their diet until they're forced to.  Not very optimistic of me, but when I think about just my own typical midwestern extended family.....yeah.  No change unless absolutely necessary.  I feel like industrial agriculture is artificially cheap, and as fossil fuels get more expensive, "normal" food costs will rise until the localized alternatives are actually cheaper.  That's not the case yet, but it will be!  I think that's why it's important to focus on staples, on things that feed people.  We want to try Fukuoka's method of grain growing.  Is there a thread about that yet?
 
Ken Peavey
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Start that thread yourself.  I'm not a big fan of Fukuoka's methods, but they work for some folks.

Ethanol and biodiesel production ties the price of fuel and food together.  They are inseparably linked.  Petroleum prices will only increase, hence, food prices will only increase.  Since food is produced on arable land, the value of that land will also increase.  Land prices may never be as cheap as they are right now.

As prices rise across the board, all those farm products, be they traditional crops such as corn and grain, vegetable crops, or animal products such as goat cheese will finally bring a fair income to the farmers who produce them

 
pollinator
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you could pick and dry the nettles to use as a natural fertilizer. harvested correctly you will have a perennial patch to collect almost all year around. you can make rope or thread with the fibers too, its sort of like hemp.
 
gardener
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kpeavey wrote:
+1

Use the standard products as the foundation of a farm marketing strategy.  Get your bills paid.  From there you can explore specialty products like golden tomato sauce, goats milk cheese, and Kentucky Fried Guinea.



I think your advice would be well heeded by growers who sell chiefly at farmers markets or roadisde stands but that it can be dangerous to take such a hardline approach without considering the supply and demand in the arena you wish to sell. You run the risk of markets being flooded and not being able to get a good price, or not being able to sell at all.

With minimal effort I have been able to successfully create a local market niche for cattail hearts, wild spinach, and an assortment of relatively unknown vegetable varieties. People are willing to try new foods but you're right...it is a tough sell for most. It's all in how you go about it. Samples, infosheets, recipes, and word of mouth can go a long way.

If you're doing a CSA foodbox program I think that you can get away with selling more exotic and unknown foods (as long as you provide info and recipes). I had a lot of good feedback with last years assortment of wild edibles and unfamiliar cultivated crops. I also sell to a few chef's in the city who love experimenting with new foods and flavours.

if you want to look at the market in general... To me it seems better to do your homework, call around to  potential customers (caterers, restaurants, farmers markets, breweries, bakeries etc.), see what they're in need of and if the numbers all work out go for that if its feasible.
 
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I wonder if, instead of a CSA, someone could get away with CSWC, specifically Community Supported Wild Craft. Where in community members pay an annual fee for a box full of things that grow naturally or as weeds in the area.
 
                                
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For the past 11 years I have been supporting myself through selling things, some of which I grow, others which I make, online. I'm expanding what I grow to be more of my own supplier (and I would expand it a lot more if I had more than a city lot), but if people are not opposed to selling nationally or internationally, please consider selling online. It's not hard to set up a small website selling and even taking credit cards. It takes a while to get a following and to iron out most of the wrinkles--it took me three years to get my online shop to the point where it brought in enough to completely support me--but it's definitely possible. What I have learned from doing this is that my most secure income comes from what is most unique and from what I add value to as opposed to selling just "raw." If I try to sell what others are selling, people will tend to shop based on price, and a bigger business will always be able to sell for less than I can, because they have the volume. But if I sell what no one else is selling, I can set my own price and develop a following of shoppers from all over the world. If you are concerned about rising prices of oil, sell something small and light for which you can charge a lot per ounce and which has minimal shipping costs. One of my major categories of items weighs 2 oz. including the shipping material and I can ship that at a flat rate anywhere in the world for $3.50. Even if you have an internet connection only an hour a day or so, you can conduct a business online. The glory of this kind of business is that you can do it pretty much anywhere. That allows a person to live where it's cheap and not have to be concerned about what the local market wants or what they can pay. This includes the "local" market that is the US. When the dollar tanks against other currencies, people in other countries want to buy from us, because their money goes farther. 'Course, if you believe that selling other than locally is wrong, this won't work.

Selling online is not part of the image of homesteading. But it can allow you to live much more on your own terms than the usual job off the land that people are often forced to take in order to have cash to pay for things like housing, medical treatment, etc.

I too read the Salatin book, You Can Farm! The thing that I liked best about it was the encouragement, the can-do attitude. 
 
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I like what you are saying Paracelsus!  Can you share what your website is? 

I think diversifying your income with many horticultural projects is smart business.  I like to learn about ideas that can be managed for income production in the off season...namely the dead of winter months when cash flow is slow but time is readily available...maybe a website is the way to go!  I have a farming friend in Bozeman who developed an online farm marketplace...this is for food and value-added food products that are grown on her farm, or other local farms...she doesn't mail order, just sets up delivery schedules and drops for the orders, but what it means is people can order whatever local products are in season, from the comfort of home, at any hour of the day, rather than having to get up at the crack of dawn to make it to the farmer's market on Saturday mornings...plus it lets her sell in every month of the year, when the farmer's markets aren't operating.  Her website is www.fielddayfarms.com.  She's more of a local marketplace paradigm, but still a really great example of online marketing!


On the note about wildcrafted salad mix as a market crop...I'd caution anyone doing this to check and doublecheck their plant ID skills before jumping in.  I once ate a single salad wildcrafted by a self-proclaimed plant expert that contained what she thought was an edible...a weed called groundsel.  It is in reality a violent purgative.  The results were not pretty, and included an emergency type scenario of involuntary purging from both ends...several years later, I still cringe when I smell groundsel.  It sickened every person who consumed it, twelve of us, in one communal housing set up with only three bathrooms.  No permanent damage, but if someone were to accidentally sell something like this at a market, people might just get scared or mad enough to try to sue!
 
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a close friend is an herbalist nutritionist of 30 years. he sells clients a home brewed tea/juice made from weeds/plants he forages in his backyard and elsewhere. potent stuff!!!
i think the going price is $15 for 1/2 gallon. think some of them are customized to a particular client/desired effect.
 
                                
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Allison Rooney wrote:
I like what you are saying Paracelsus!  Can you share what your website is? 



I don't know if that's allowed, since it's a commercial site. 
 
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Location: Eastern Shore VA
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Travis Philp wrote:

Samples, infosheets, recipes, and word of mouth can go a long way.

I also sell to a few chef's in the city who love experimenting with new foods and flavours.

if you want to look at the market in general... To me it seems better to do your homework, call around to  potential customers (caterers, restaurants, farmers markets, breweries, bakeries etc.), see what they're in need of and if the numbers all work out go for that if its feasible.



I agree that marketing is the key to selling "weird" foods.  If there are adventurous chefs in your general area that is always a good thing.  I have been on both ends of this as a chef, we would get cold calls all the time from foragers and farmers.  Also our regular suppliers knew that we would try different things and let us know what was out there.  Keep in mind that restaurants can help you sell as well.  Once you have one others will be sure to follow. 

Recipes and samples make can be needed at farmers markets especially.  We worked on a farm that had a booth and we put together a wildcrafted salad with chickweed, dandelion, and other "weeds."  Unfortunately the woman running the booth didn't do much to promote it and it didn't sell.  No surprise there.

You have to stand behind these ideas and do some extra work when going out on a limb.
 
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Paracelsus wrote:
I don't know if that's allowed, since it's a commercial site. 



There is a place in your profile to list a website 
 
pollinator
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I think your advice would be well heeded by growers who sell chiefly at farmers markets or roadisde stands but that it can be dangerous to take such a hardline approach without considering the supply and demand in the arena you wish to sell. You run the risk of markets being flooded and not being able to get a good price, or not being able to sell at all.

With minimal effort I have been able to successfully create a local market niche for cattail hearts, wild spinach, and an assortment of relatively unknown vegetable varieties. People are willing to try new foods but you're right...it is a tough sell for most. It's all in how you go about it. Samples, infosheets, recipes, and word of mouth can go a long way.



Another way to create demand for lesser known items like Nettles, wild spinach, etc is by using the media - publicity.
So for example if no one in my area knew about nettles, I'd write an article about it in the local paper (or contact the reporters to see if they would write one). I'd contact the local news producers to do a segment on this "new trend" - usually a few minute segment that is education and entertaining with a few props/visuals.

Then I'd have a demonstration at the farmer's market on how to use it but I'd also have a copy of the newspaper article to give out. I'd also have some way to show that this was "as seen on 10 News"

Of course I'd post the article to Facebook as well.

I believe if you educate the people through the media, they become more comfortable with what you are selling before they even see your booth and then they are much more curious and willing to try it.

 
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I can say with experience that truck farming can be very profitable. I like Salatin's book. Be sure. One day I will integrate Salatin's techniques into my project. But even without Salatin's models integrated into my own, I can make 10,000 dollars an acre off tomatoes. AND I can do that completely organic, minimal inputs and expenses, and minimal labor.....if using permaculture principles in the way I raise the tomatoes. Taste better too. Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable. You'll have no problem finding customers. Sure I raise some other things like peppers and broccoli and such. But the profits come from the tomatoes. You just can't buy good tomatoes at the grocery stores anymore. So the demand for a good tomato far exceeds supply. Most days I sell out before noon.
 
Sheri Menelli
pollinator
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Scott Strough wrote:I can say with experience that truck farming can be very profitable. I like Salatin's book. Be sure. One day I will integrate Salatin's techniques into my project. But even without Salatin's models integrated into my own, I can make 10,000 dollars an acre off tomatoes. AND I can do that completely organic, minimal inputs and expenses, and minimal labor.....if using permaculture principles in the way I raise the tomatoes. Taste better too. Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable. You'll have no problem finding customers. Sure I raise some other things like peppers and broccoli and such. But the profits come from the tomatoes. You just can't buy good tomatoes at the grocery stores anymore. So the demand for a good tomato far exceeds supply. Most days I sell out before noon.



Just Curious - How many hours of work does it take to grow an acre of tomatoes?
 
Scott Strough
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Sheri Menelli wrote:

Scott Strough wrote:I can say with experience that truck farming can be very profitable. I like Salatin's book. Be sure. One day I will integrate Salatin's techniques into my project. But even without Salatin's models integrated into my own, I can make 10,000 dollars an acre off tomatoes. AND I can do that completely organic, minimal inputs and expenses, and minimal labor.....if using permaculture principles in the way I raise the tomatoes. Taste better too. Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable. You'll have no problem finding customers. Sure I raise some other things like peppers and broccoli and such. But the profits come from the tomatoes. You just can't buy good tomatoes at the grocery stores anymore. So the demand for a good tomato far exceeds supply. Most days I sell out before noon.



Just Curious - How many hours of work does it take to grow an acre of tomatoes?

VERY VERY few. I use Ruth Stout's No Work Method modified slightly by including permaculture principles. I didn't keep labor records this year. But next year seeing as how my experimental project seems to be working even better than expected, I plan on keeping detailed labor records next year. I can tell you this. I spend far more time on the computer than I do in the fields. The tough part is planting seedlings. After that it is a breeze.
 
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I would have thought the toughest part is the actual harvesting. Planting probably takes only a day, harvesting is probably hours a day, every day for months.
 
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I dislike posting theory but this is a blend as i have done some of these things. I also have a wonderful ex who is a private chef in San Francisco and have dated more than a few people involved in the food industry there.

Selling veggies to home owners is okay and clearly many make money doing it. The trick is to add as much value to what you sell as you can. You can do that with actual work, like drying things, or you can do it with marketing. Find some local restaurants that pride themselves on high end food and talk them into doing some specials with some of the more exotic things. Make it a feature that these are WILD greens, HAND harvested, hell ride you bike to deliver them, etc.

Work on your farms "image" online, facebook, website etc. If you suck at building websites, find some "green" college kid and let them help you. Selling your food becomes a "cool" thing and THAT becomes the value. Sure you might have to sell it for a bit less than you might to a consumer but you will sell MORE and the fact that your stuff is so good that restaurants use it allows you to charge more to consumers and the whole thing feeds on itself.

Now many of you will be retching over this crass capitalism and frankly, I do as well. Counter it with teaching free classes that you can now afford to do because you are not hand to mouth.

Now the above is my plan for the 1/2 acre plot we have in downtown Sacramento. I am working on the class and the image portion of this but I already have restaurants chomping at the bit for mundane things like zucchini and tomatoes that are actually RED and tasty. Sure you should plant some cool exotic heirlooms but remember, good slice able red tomatoes will outsell them 3 or 4 to 1.

Also, don't forget the value of using your land for events, both promotional and other. Hosting fundraisers/wine tastings/tomato tastings or even your "rare heirlooms" which is where your things like nettles (which AREyummy) can be marketed. People WANT to support small farms, don't be afraid to get them to help in ways other than just buying produce. Ask for volunteers to help and you will be surprised how many want to get their hands dirty.

My place is just mature fruit trees and dirt. We bought the bare lot in July, too late here to put much in and so we have six rather sad raised beds and not much else.





 
Scott Strough
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Lance Kleckner wrote:I would have thought the toughest part is the actual harvesting. Planting probably takes only a day, harvesting is probably hours a day, every day for months.

Cherry tomatoes are a pain to harvest, but otherwise harvesting tomatoes is pretty easy. You are right. in total hours harvesting probably involves more labor. But it is spread out over months. A labor of love. Planting though with my method, directly into virgin sod simply by popping a plug out with a bulb planter is relatively labor intensive. Of course it depends on many factors. Here in Oklahoma the soil in most the fields I work in is incredibly poor, hard as a rock, abused for decades. This was the center of the dust bowl remember.

In my garden after 4 or 5 years, the soil repairs itself and it is a pleasure to plant. Almost as soft as potting soil and full of these skinny native earthworms. But don't expect farming acreage to start out like that. Now a days if you want soil like that, you need to be able to use permaculture principles to create it yourself.
 
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